Archive for the 'Blog Contributors' Category

Feb 16 2016

How to Write about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Blog topic written by Hannah Mann, A Croaking Dalek With Laryngitis

For three years I worked at as an editor and writer (Hi Senthil!). Naturally, this entailed a lot of reading about the d/hh community– most of it from hearing writers who had no experience whatsoever with that world. Not an issue per se, but I often ended up having to correct a few assumptions.

There is a right way and a wrong way to write about people with hearing loss. The finer details vary by person– and the best way to find out is to ask– but essentially, the single most important bit to remember is this:

Focus on the person, not the hearing loss.

As a general rule, the only time a person’s hearing loss really needs to be mentioned is in the introductory paragraph, or when it’s directly pertinent—like communicating with hearing peers, or getting accommodations. And, for the most part, hearing loss doesn’t really affect anyone’s ability to do anything except hear, and in some cases communicate, if we’re talking a primarily verbal environment. Take this, for example:

“Despite his hearing loss, he is an accomplished artist.”

OK, look, I’m deaf. I draw and paint. And my first reaction is, he’s deaf, not blind. (Even then, I’m pretty sure there are fantastic blind artists out there who have figured out how to make it work.)

I see this a lot with sports, by the way. You could have this 300-lb. behemoth who can strategically weave through a mob of linebackers with ballerina-level grace and finesse, and some journalist out there would still natter on about the obstacles he faced– of course, referring to his hearing loss.

To be fair, hearing loss is not exactly a picnic, because we do live in a predominantly hearing and auditory world. We will need to find workarounds, and that’s worth mentioning. But that’s just it: they are workarounds, not this insurmountable Wall to be conquered every time we have to do anything. Hell, sometimes it’s even an advantage: I draw and paint because I am an incredibly visual person, and my deafness had a lot to do with that.

For most deaf and hard of hearing people, it is just part of learning to adapt, and many of us aren’t comfortable with being put on a pedestal for living out their daily life, or serving as a stand-in to “inspire” someone. Stella Young has an excellent TED talk on the objectification of inspiration, which is worth a watch here:

Incidentally, this can be a difficult line to walk, even for me. When in doubt, ask someone who’s d/hh. Preferably, ask several. A good place to start, though, is to avoid the following terms, and any like them: Barrier, Obstacle, Challenge, Inspiration, Overcome, and Disability

So. That’s the big one to watch out for. Couple other writing no-no’s I’d include are:

Overt/excessive references to sound. Especially puns.
“Sound and Fury,” “Hearing with Her Eyes,” and “World of Silence” are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Truthfully, I tend to see these as low-hanging fruit at best, and lazy writing at worst.

…Maybe just leave them out altogether.
The thing is, we’re deaf. For most of us, sound is just not a huge part of our daily lives. I mean, I don’t even notice the absence of sound most times. I don’t have the feeling that it “should” be there (except when I’m wearing my implant, then I’ll start making random tapping noises just to make sure the battery’s working). Even a lot of late-deafened adults find that they just don’t miss it all that much.

Don’t use the term hearing impaired.
This is more of a gentle heads-up than anything else since it is not common knowledge. Although I don’t personally care about “hearing impaired,” a lot of people find it distasteful and even deeply offensive because to them, it implies “brokenness,” or that the person needs to be “fixed.” Unless the person you’re writing about uses that terminology or is OK with it, best to leave that term out of your journalistic vocabulary altogether. “Deaf and hard of hearing,” although admittedly a mouthful, is usually a better substitute.

This feels like a woefully short primer, but the crux of it is, we’re people. Hearing loss/deafness is just one part of our lives. Write about us as people, and you probably won’t veer too far off course. Honestly, that holds true for any group no matter the demographic.

P.S. I know I have been a very bad non-posting Croaking Dalek due to Life, as I’d feared. I’ll certainly be doing my best to return to a regular schedule with things settling down a bit now.

Join us on Wednesday at this week’s Open Chat Night!

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Feb 09 2016

Strength, Inspiration and our Inner Champion – by LeAnn Caseria

Blog topic written by LeAnn Caseria

Hearing loss came upon me suddenly, there was no time to gradually get used to it. Not feeling the greatest one evening, my husband and I were watching a movie and “Bam!” ….I couldn’t hear out of my left ear, there was this non-stop buzzing going on and my right ear wasn’t doing so well either . Instantly my life was harder, at work it seemed impossible to understand voices, meetings were confusing and then I’d get HOME. Home, my refuge from the world, the place where I was loved and needed but suddenly everyone was mumbling and I couldn’t hear the TV. Daily headaches and vertigo did not help….I was a mess.

When bad things happen, how do you adapt? Where do you get your hope and strength? Do you have a huge untapped inner core of strength that you tap into? And when that’s running low, how do you fill it back up? Do you have a family to rally around you and cheer you on? Or, do you have family that is used to you taking care of them and being their cheerleader? How do you cope when so many need you? Do you smile at your spouse as you go out the door saying “Don’t worry….I’ll be fine” when inside you’re thinking “holy crap, how am I going to get through today?”

If life has taught me anything, its’ that we all need an “inner champion”. That’s that place that you draw your strength from on those hard days. When you’ve been up all night with a toddler who has the stomach flu and you have that important presentation to give at work. You know “those” days when life just is really, really hard and we all know that hearing loss is HARD.

I needed all the strength I could muster to deal with my sudden hearing loss. Life was so different. Would it have been easier if it hadn’t been so sudden? I have no idea, but I was looking for inspiration. In addition to the doctors who were treating me, I saw a counselor who encouraged me to take care of “me” while I was dealing with this. He knew that I loved to read and recommended true stories of people who had overcome challenges.

Josh Sundquist became one of my favorite inspirational people. Since he’d lost his leg to cancer when he was 10 years old, he’d become a Paralympic skier and speaker who shares how you can find hope in whatever hardships you face. Once he shared how he wished that he could go back in time and talk to that scared young boy that he used to be.

Josh said, “I feel bad because he doesn’t know how much good is ahead of him. He doesn’t realize that he’s going to survive the cancer and he’s going to grow up and become everything he dreamed and more. I wish he could know that.” Then he added, “If you’re dealing with some hard situation, I feel bad for you. But I wonder if a future version of yourself would wish you knew right now that things are going to get better.”

I don’t know about you, but I doubt that I’ll become famous for anything…and most days I don’t feel too inspirational. But when I look back to six years ago when I lost my hearing, I see some really good things that have happened. I’m still working and have found some physical therapy that has helped my balance issues. In my job as a special education teaching assistant I get to be with kids who inspire me every day. Yes, it’s hard to understand what they say but I ask them for help and they try. I’ve also become better at asking for help when I need it. And there are so many great people that I’ve met through the local hearing loss association, people that face far tougher daily challenges than I. Their courage and the hard work they put into communication….that inspires me every day.

Yes, things are harder and different with hearing loss. I’ve had to adapt and change. On my worst days I may drink too much coffee, whine and drag myself whimpering through the day…but on those days when my inner champion is strong, I attack that day with a smile and laugh instead of cringe when I have to ask a co-worker to repeat herself again and again. Deciding to be the best “me” I can be….and being thankful every day.

Join us on Wednesday at this week’s Open Chat Night!

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